A $172,000 Offer — A $26.8 Million Verdict in San Diego

On Christmas Eve we blogged about a case in San Diego in which the State took a parcel located on Otay Mesa and got hit with a circa $26 million verdict. We now have some more details on that case, People ex rel. Dept. of Transportation vs. Anderson Enterprises (Anderprises).

The subject property was a pan-shaped, 58-acre tract of land with access through a road abutting the panhandle. The taking was of 2.86 acres, but — wouldn’t you know it? — the take area was over the panhandle, leaving the 54-acre remainder physically landlocked. The operative word is “physically” because CalTrans argued that there was alternative access. The owners countered by pointing out that this “access” was a so-called paper street, i.e., one existing on planning maps only, and not usable for actual access to the remainder. Also, inasmuch as CalTrans had announced its intention to take the subject property many years ago, and the apparent imminence of this taking delayed the owners’ execution of their development plans, the owners also had a so-called Klopping claim (after Klopping v. City of Whittier, 8 Cal.3d 39 (1972), allowing compensation for damages caused by unreasonable pre-condemnation delays or other unreasonable conduct on the part of the condemnor).

The jury brought in a verdict of $1.2 million for the taken land, $20.5 million in severance damages for impairmet of access resulting from the landlocking of the remainder, and $5.1 million in Klopping damages. All this on CalTrans’ offer of $172,000. We anticipate an appeal by CalTrans, so stay tuned on this one.

We reserve final judgment on what happened here until we learn more details, but on these basic facts and figures this appears to be another one of those cases where a condemning agency goes into litigational battle expecting its hopes to  triumph over reality.

 Update: For a report on this case, see Gabe Friedman, Landowners Win $26.5 Million In State Eminent Domain Case, San Francisco Daily Journal,  Jan.4, 2008, P. 1.

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